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We Need Jobs Now

Employment numbers for April were released on May 7. The news is mixed.

  • Unemployment (numbers filing for unemployment benefits) rose to 9.9% from the 9.7% which had held for at least two months. The uptick is due to greater confidence, encouraging those who had ceased looking for work to rejoin the search.
  • 290,000 new non-farm payroll jobs were created in April, across several sectors of the market, including manufacturing.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as ARRA or economic stimulus), which helped to hold the jobless rate below 10% for the last several months, will cease to be available at the end of this fiscal year, Oct. 31, 2010. Millions of jobs are needed.

 

Unemployment Insurance

 

More than half those unemployed have been so for more than six months. This is the first recession in our history in which this has been the case. Unemployment benefits have been extended twice, and are now up to 99 weeks. Still, there are thousands of workers who have exceeded that limit. Legislation supporting the 99 weeks of benefits expires at the beginning of June 2010, and thousands of additional families will be without income unless there is a further extension. With each short-term (1-2 month) extension, states need to spend money they do not have for notices, changes in status, etc. The Continuing Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 4851) would postpone the termination until November 6 – in the new fiscal year. It awaits Senate action.

 

Signed into Law

 

To date, the only “jobs bill” signed into law is the "Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act" (H.I.R.E. - H.R. 2847), which was signed by the president on March 18, 2010. It focuses on small businesses as a way to cure the employment crisis, and does so through a series of tax incentives.

 

Waiting in the Senate

 

“Emergency Supplemental for Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs for Youth, ending 9/30/2010” (H.R. 4899) is one of several job-promotion bills passed by the House and sent to the Senate. It has been sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and is awaiting action there prior to going to the Senate floor. If this doesn’t receive action before the Memorial Day recess, there will be little use in passing the Summer Jobs for Youth section.

 

H.R. 4849 “Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010” includes tax breaks for small businesses and for capital gains, and a one-year extension ($25 billion) of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Fund – which has provided thousands of jobs for recipients of TANF over the last several months.

 

Waiting for House/Senate Agreement

 

The American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213) has been passed in both the House and the Senate. They differ, however, and await reconciling.

 

At this time, the bill is predominantly tax credits that expired at the end of 2009, including research and development, state sales tax deductions, and some which are energy related.

 

Advocates are working to extend successful ARRA provisions, otherwise expiring this year:

  • Extension of Unemployment Insurance and COBRA until the end of 2010
  • TANF Emergency Fund – is successfully placing 180,000 persons in jobs with a future
  • Summer jobs for youth – provided jobs for 317,000 young people in 2009
  • Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) – assists states with their portion of Medicaid expenses – this will keep state workers employed. 
  • Emergency funding (traditionally) has not required “pay-fors.” However, many members of Congress are now demanding offsets. Which need to be paid for, and sources of payment, are holding up the Senate/House agreement.

Vision

 

Missing seem to be a comprehensive view of what might make a significant difference, and the political will to push through meaningful jobs legislation. The balance between getting people back to work (and contributing to the revenue stream) and reducing the deficit seems tipped toward the latter.

 

Solely relying on tax breaks for small businesses seems unlikely to solve the unemployment problem. States facing bankruptcy are reducing staffs, further swelling the unemployment ranks. Reductions in state staffing also limits services in greater demand due to high unemployment.

 

People need jobs, and the nation has tremendous unmet needs – requiring workers. It seems reasonable to think that the federal government needs to act directly to create jobs.

 

There does not seem to be a vision for getting the nation on a firmer economic base, one that looks at the intersection of elements such as:

 

  • Infrastructure demands to support healthy communities, such as low-income housing, safe bridges, updated schools and workable public spaces/green spaces
  • Support to states to keep people working in order to provide and expand needed services (e.g., housing, Medicaid, nutrition programs, child care)
  • Job training for persons whose careers have vanished or with low skills (e.g., crabbers, shrimpers, etc. in the Gulf Coast; TANF recipients; young minority males)
  • Job training and employment of youth to repair ecological damage and move us to alternative energy producers (e.g., wind turbines, solar panels)
  • Education for all our children (Secretary Duncan recently testified that as many as 300,000 teachers and other educators are losing their jobs this year.).

NETWORK also supports these bills as a way to move toward a vision of full employment:

 

Representative George Miller (CA) and others have developed The Local Jobs for America Act (H.R.4812) in the House. The intent is to help local communities create and save a million public and private sector jobs. Targeted to states and cities, it would place workers in positions that provide necessary services, funding: 50,000 on-the-job private-sector training positions; $23 billion this year to help states support 250,000 education jobs; $1.18 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat; $500 million to retain, rehire, and hire firefighters. Opponents consider this to have little merit and no chance of passage, yet it is a bill with a vision to meet multiple needs with each dollar invested.